MOH To Offer More HLP Scholarships, Parallel Pathway Slots Amid MMC Dispute

The MOH will increase the number of HLP slots from 1,220 slots for the 2020/21 session to 1,650 slots for the 2024/25 session. MOH will also raise the number of parallel pathway slots to 600. Parallel pathway fields were expanded to 14 fields for 2022/23.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 10 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) is expanding training opportunities for specialisation by increasing the number of slots for Hadiah Latihan Persekutuan (HLP) sponsorships and slots for the parallel pathway programme.

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad told Senator Prof Dr Mohamed Haniffa Abdullah in a written Dewan Negara reply on March 27 that the health ministry will increase the number of HLP slots, a mandatory government scholarship for medical officers (MOs) seeking to specialise, from 1,220 slots for the 2020/2021 session to 1,650 slots for the 2024/2025 session.

Additionally, the MOH will increase the number of slots for the parallel pathway programme to 600, which corresponds with the expansion of sponsorship for parallel pathway specialist training from only five fields in 2016 to 14 fields starting from the 2022/2023 session.

The decision comes amid an ongoing dispute with the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) over parallel pathway training. 

MMC is now embroiled in at least three court cases after 11 graduates from specialist training – both the parallel pathway and a local university postgraduate programme – filed judicial review applications in the High Court here against the regulator’s rejection of their applications to be registered as specialists on the National Specialist Register (NSR).

In these three cases, MMC rejected their NSR registration applications after refusing to recognise their postgraduate qualifications from the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in cardiothoracic surgery, the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in neurosurgery, and the Master of Pathology (Medical Genetics) from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).

The three lawsuits were filed respectively by four graduates with FRCS Ed in cardiothoracic surgery last March 20, one graduate with FRCS Ire in neurosurgery last January 16, and six USM pathology graduates in medical genetics on November 16 last year. Applicants in the FRCS Ire and USM cases have already obtained leave from the High Court to pursue their judicial review applications.

According to MOH records, there are 8,522 specialists serving in public health care. Current statistics from the NSR under the MMC also show that there are 5,549 medical specialists serving in the private sector, bringing the total number of specialists in Malaysia to 14,071 – approximately half of the target set for 2030.

“There is no denying that this number still falls short of the optimum level required to meet the specialist service needs in Malaysia, including in the public sector,” Dzulkefly said. Over 70 per cent of the population depend on the public health care system.

Malaysia’s population-to-specialist ratio currently stands at an estimated 10,000:4, which sharply contrasts with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average of 10,000:14.3.

In a separate Dewan Rakyat reply on March 20, Dzulkefly told Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii that 3,412 medical officers are undergoing training in the parallel pathway programme.

The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) previously explained that under the current system, applicants for both the MMED (local Master’s programme) and the parallel pathway (Royal Colleges) programmes must apply for the HLP scholarship.

If approved, the government covers the full costs for those choosing the MMED programme or bears the costs for the second and third examinations, only once, for those pursuing the parallel pathway.

To qualify for the HLP scholarship, candidates must perform well in the MedEx exam, which costs RM800 for the MMED programme, or pass the first paper for the parallel pathway programme (with costs varying based on specialisation).

However, candidates may be ineligible for the scholarship if they lack sufficient years of service. Additionally, openings for the HLP are reportedly limited, its selection criteria are unclear, and there is an age limit for applications.

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